Given the 1.25 million ratings this book has on Goodreads, there is a good chance that my review will not sway your opinion. Unfortunately for you, I am just conceited enough to believe that you should read my review and believe that my 2.5 rating better reflects the book than the average 4.21 rating! Of course I am joking around. This is a case where I have a hard time seeing the draw of the story when it has clearly appealed to many people.
This is essentially the life story of Amir, an upper class Afghan and the life long effect of his friendship with Hassan, his friend from a low and despised caste and his own father. As a young child, Amir lived a charmed life. He had everything he wanted except the unconditional love of his father. He had a best friend but the relationship was somewhat strained due to cultural prejudices. Amir is set to experience the greatest time of his life when he enters an annual kite flying contest. His dreams of a triumphant return to his father are dashed after he witnesses the rape of his friend Hassan. Struggling with his guilt, Amir begin a downward spiral of destructive behaviour. Soon after his behaviour changes, he is forced from his home as Russia invades and he begins a journey to a new life. The past haunts him and he is given a chance to atone for old wrongs.
The backdrop of Afghanistan was wonderfully drawn. It was the major reason that I did not rate this lower. After hearing of damage and destruction brought on by years of conflict, it was interesting to see a picture of the country before it was ravaged. Their food, their religion, their customs and their prejudices were on full display. The Afghan people are painted in a positive light. As a side note, all of the talk of naan made me go out and buy some. The author certainly made the local food sound delicious!
Outside of the intial setting, there was little that I enjoyed.
The novel was essentially one long flashback with flashbacks within the main flashback. I did not enjoy the method of storytelling as at times it felt like I was reading a 300+ page run on sentence.
The story is not the least bit uplifting. It is a series of painful, life altering, distressing and depressing events. I appreciate that real life is not always happy and charming. These events are meant to create an emotional story. I am not opposed to emotional stories. Just read my reviews of The Starboard Sea or The Light Between Oceans. Both of those stories packed an emotional wallop. It was the manner in which The Kite Runner elicited emotion that left me cold. This book used good old emotional manipulation to drive this story. Just when you think there will be a ray of sunshine, another disaster occurs. In fact, feels as the main character Amir wants you to root against him. He is so unhappy with himself and caries such a sense or worthlessness that you can hardly believe that something good could happen to him. In this is one of my BIGGEST pet peeves. It is the character that continually laments and (figuratively) flagellates himself because of events that are either out of their control or not their fault. Much of Amir issues stem from an event that occurred in his childhood. He could never say to himself “Hey. I was young and scared. There was nothing I could have done”. Characters like Amir lack basic insight into themselves and make reading about them frustrating and not the least bit compelling.
I did not enjoy this one and would not recommend it. While I enjoyed the background, the action up front left me dissatisfied and occasionally frustrated. It is this one man’s opinion that this book is seriously overrated.
It is difficult to find commentary on the sex/violence/language content of book if you are interested. I make an effort to give you the information so you can make an informed decision before reading. *Disclaimer* I do not take note or count the occurrences of adult language as I read. I am simply giving approximations.
Scale 1 – Lowest 5 – Highest
Sex – 2.5
There is a moderately graphic scene of a young boy being raped. Some version of the event is relived within the mind of Amir throughout the book. Late in the book there is allusion to another young boy being subjected to sexual abuse.
Language – 2
There is some name calling of a cultural/racist nature. Some the terms were not familiar to me and may be lost on you as well.
Violence – 3.5
As stated above, there was a moderately graphic rape scene. It was proceeded by violence. There was fight between two people that resulted in one person in the hospital and another suffering a gruesome injury. There is description of people being shot in the street and stoned in front of a crowd. When modern Afghanistan was discussed, violence followed.